Victory – 2018 State Champions

Saturday night’s game was one for the books. Walker, my hometown, pulled in its first Boys’ Basketball Championship against Landry-Walker. L-W was looking for its fourth championship in the last five years, and they almost pulled it off. It was a nail biter. Walker was down by seven points with 2 minutes left in the game, when Walker’s defense swarmed L-W. We scored enough times to tie up the game and bring on overtime. There we continued our rampage in overtime, leaving the final score as 62-57.

Update – Anthony’s boys brought home the trophy. Here is an article from the Livingston Parish news.

Update 2 – Of course Walker threw a parade to show off their new state champions. I am almost tearing up. Here is a picture of my cousin and Walker’s head coach, Anthony Schiro, from the Livingston Parish News.

Walker’s Hoop Dreams

I am not really a basketball fan, but I saw recently on Facebook that the Walker Boys’ Basketball team was playing in the State playoffs. The coach of the team, Anthony Schiro, is a cousin of mine and we went to school together (he is a year or two older than me) so I decided to watch it. They were playing Sulfur High out from the Lake Charles area. They were able to beat Sulfur 72-50 in a great game on the 23rd of February.

On Feb. 27th, they went on to play St. Amant (in Ascension Parish) in another home game, so I was again able to watch it on Facebook. The score that night was 79-46. A big shout out goes to all the players, who played magnificently. Here is a list of players on the team:

Three days later Southwood High from up near Shreveport came down to Walker and was out played as well. 84-59 was the final tally and the boys just seemed to play better. This victory earned them a visit to the state championship final four, called Marsh Madness, in Lake Charles.

They did not disappoint. They played Friday night (March 8) number 1 seed Natchitoches Central, which had made it to the final four yet again. It was another magnificent game, with Walker able to hobble their star player and dominate the game at 89-63. I was not able to watch the game live, as the venue had changed, but I was able to see the replay of the game. Here is an article by the Livingston Parish News and here is a video interview on Facebook of both opposing coaches. Anthony’s boys look great.

This victory means that Walker will play for the first time for the Boys’ State Championship. They are unfortunately playing last year’s champions, Landry-Walker tomorrow. They are a team from New Orleans and hopefully we will smash them as well. Go Wildcats!

The Great Flood of 2016

During my trip home, two things rapidly became apparent to me – one personal and the other an observation of my people in the Florida parishes. My personal observation is that I lack stamina in doing any kind of physical work. I helped Jacob, my cousin, move from Myrtle Beach, S.C. to Hattiesburg, MS. He is a graphic design professor and just got a new job at Southern Miss. I was working with Jacob, his brother Mike and my brother Jason. All three of them outperformed me and I definitely felt all 380 lbs. of my weight that day. This became even more apparent in the cleanup after the Great Flood of 2016.

Speaking of the flood, it was an unusual period for me. Everywhere around me, the flood waters quickly rose, swamping people and forcing them out of their homes. Along my street, however, it was placid. I was staying at my brother John’s house, behind my dad’s. I was really proud of my father. My stepmother was a wreck of nerves, after having moving her parents, sister and brother-in-law from their flooded homes and having them staying with with Dad and Darlene. Dad was the voice of reason and calm, which still surprises me to this day. He only began to doubt himself, according to his words, when the water started to lap up against the back wall of the carport.

Rising waters as seen at my brother's house.     Same from my Dad's.
      *First picture is from my brother’s porch and the second is from my dad’s carport.

I spent the time at my brother’s house during the flood. I helped him move his equipment up higher and then watched as the flood water rose up coming from Dumpling Creek. His house was already elevated because it lies in a low lying area on the property. It got to about a foot from his house footings. Marianne (his wife) has noted that every time he tells the story, the water gets a little higher. Other than wading in slightly above the knee water going back and forth to dad’s house and the near constant coverage of local news, that was my only experience with the flooding. The aftermath, as it was for most people, was a little more involved.

On the Monday after the storm, Marianne was able to get to Carter’s Grocery in Walker and she bought cake mix because the bread was sold out. She made about 9-12 cakes and heard that they might be appreciated at North Park rec center off Lockhart and Eden Church Road. My cousin Randy Hooper was cooking and he asked us to stay and help out. John, Marianne, Tyler (their son), and myself worked about 5 hours. John and Randy cooked while Marianne and Tyler washed dishes. They also worked with me in distributing food to the refugees. It seems strange to think about people in your own hometown that way, but truly it was real refuge for most of them. After taking care of some business in Covington the next day, I returned to the shelter. Marianne seemed surprised about this. I worked for about 3.5-4 hours helping distribute food and materials, divided up food to be taken to other shelters and relay points, and generally aided the National Guardsmen in offloading donations. The generosity and sense of community from everyone was a joy to behold in such times. People were looking out for each other. We heard that the Red Cross would take over the shelter the next day, so I decided to go find work elsewhere. They bring their own volunteers and donations in, as everything up to then had been totally ad-hoc by people just pitching in and helping.

The next week and a half were spent helping other people. I helped my friend Nathan move a lot of damaged items to the road. He got over 5′ of water and his neighborhood in Denham was completely trashed. Jason came over one weekend and I went out to help him at his dad’s old house in Hammond. It was already in bad shape. His depression on seeing it in such a state depressed me. I also helped over at my step-mother’s parent’s house on two occasions. I helped move some refrigerators to the street and then helped shovel (with a snow shovel) blown cellulose insulation out of the house. Doing that in 95 degree heat (more indoors) with no fan just about killed me. I regret not helping more, but to be honest I repeatedly hit the bottom of my reserves. I was completely unprepared physically. Perhaps then that is the main regret I have, that I could not have done more.
My Dad working harder than I ever will.

*This picture is of my old man
working harder than I ever will.

In memory of this event, I have included two videos taken off Facebook to demonstrate its scope in my hometown, Walker, and its neighbor, Denham Springs.


FSOT & July the 4th


American FlagHappy Birthday to the United States of America! Today she is 239 years into her glorious existence. To those who gave her birth and those who now keep her free, Thank You & God Bless America

In related news, I just this week received my scores for the Foreign Service Officers Test (FSOT), which is the first step in a long process to work for the United States State Department. This was my third attempt. The first time in 2011 was successful, but last year I failed because of my low score on the essay section. This time I passed.

Last year:
Biographic Questionnaire: 42.65
English Expression: 59.56
Job Knowledge: 61.7
Multiple Choice Total: 163.91

Essay Score: 5

This year:
Biographic Questionnaire: 57.78
English Expression: 59.67
Job Knowledge: 56.43
Multiple Choice Total: 173.88

Essay Score: 8

As you can see, I did much better at the Biographic section with an increase of 15 points. In the English section, I barely budged – 0.11 points increase. I thought the English section was extremely easy and felt that I should have done much better in this category. The job knowledge section was a severe blow, because this is usually my highest area and for some reason I blew it. I decreased by over 5 points. I was going for a 180 total, but was unsuccessful.

To have your essay graded, you needed to score at least 154 on the multiple choice. I thought that my essay was pretty poor when I finished, but it looks like the ones giving the score had mercy on me. This was my actual best, since I scored a 7 on the one in 2011. (You need a 6 to pass to the next step.) I still don’t think it was that great, but I will take the victory. The next step is the Personal Narrative Questions (PNQs) which are due July 23rd.

Home After a Year and a Half – And Very Late, Part III.

While at home, I offered to pick up Jared and Tyler (John’s sons) from the corner while it was raining. This was on February 4th. Jared got into the front with no problem. As I was talking to Jared about his day, Tyler put his instrument case into the car. When he sat it down, it sounded like the car door, so I started going forward. Unfortunately, he was not in and I ran over his foot. While he turned out later to be okay, I felt horrible about it. For some reason, if I do hurt one of my brothers’ offspring, it is usually Tyler.

While I was in Walker, I was able to visit with several of my aunts and my uncle. I talked to my Aunt Marie and her husband, Uncle Wayne several times. I also visited my Aunt Madge. She was always my favorite, because she was closer in age to Mom and Jacob, her son, is one of my best friends (if not the best). In addition to visiting, I recorded an hour or more of interviews with them. I was not able to do the same for my Aunt Gene or Aunt Billie, but I plan on doing it soon. Eventually, I will transcribe it and place it in the genealogy section of this site.

On the 13th, I went up to Greensburg to look at their information. It was too much and I didn’t have enough money to get what I wanted. I did copy Joseph Clark’s probate record. He is my 4th great-grandfather. His daughter, Martha Elizabeth Clark, married first John Wilkins and then Michael Milton (son of the one in Part 1). I have documented a little of their history here on this blog.

While in Greensburg, I ran across something posted on Ancestry by another descendent of Martha. It was a sale in 1829 of an 11 month old slave by Martha and her husband John Wilkins to her brother for $125. I spent some time on the drive home trying to think on how to explain this horrible situation. The bill of sale did not give much detail. While I whole-heartedly oppose slavery in all its varieties, I tend not to judge these people. I also feel very little need to be ashamed of my ancestors as Ben Affleck did recently. In my family tree, there are heroes and villains alike, and many of whom are both. I try to understand them in their own context and setting, rather than my own.

Eventually, I had to return back to Beijing. I enjoyed eating the food of my hometown (thus gaining a few extra pounds in the bargain). I was able to see some of my friends, most of my family and even a few co-workers. I breathed in the fresh air and relaxed. To be honest, it was a great vacation.

Home After a Year and a Half – And Very Late, Part II.

A couple of things happened at home that were not pleasant. I found out from Dad that my cousin, Danny Fred, had been killed in a hit and run by a drunk driver in Rockland, Maine. He was the same age as me and had lived a difficult, but interesting life. I regret that I did not know him as well as I should. I think I may have talked to him once in the last twenty years. For example, I had no idea that he had children. The news story of his accident stated that he was walking on the side of the road with a friend and her daughter. includes a very nice obituary for him.

Daniel Fred Cormier, 35, died tragically on the evening of January 30, after being struck in a hit and run car accident in downtown Rockland, Maine.

Daniel was born on August 29, 1979 in Augusta. He grew up in Alexander and was, as his brother Patrick described him, a “nomad” in adulthood, traveling throughout the country, touching lives and making friends everywhere he roamed. Living for extended periods in California, Florida and Pennsylvania in addition to Rockland, where he resided for the past several years.

As a boy and young man he showed surprising natural talents. As one friend recalled, Daniel as a fifth grader playing chess against a local competitive chess player visiting Alexander School and winning against the man not only once, but three straight times. Later, Daniel became a proficient self-taught guitar player.

He had a lifelong knack for making people laugh. Daniel’s green eyes would light up as he told jokes and enjoyed the jokes of others.

He is survived by his mother Mary and father Danny of Calais; brother Patrick of Alexander; sister Anita and nephew Austin of Portland; and his children including daughter Winter, 14, and son Christian, 3.

*Update: My cousin Patrick has a news story on Facebook where the man filed a motion for release due to police abuse. I know I need to forgive, but a part of me clings hard to old feelings of retribution.

In addition, an associate of John (my oldest brother), Timmy Garrison, was killed up in Wiggins, MS. He was the local distributor for Woodmizer, which is the brand of John’s woodmill. There was a lot of speculation on Facebook and other places online, but eventually they arrested the his wife, her purported lover, and the lover’s cousin who they hired to come up and kill him.

Here is his obituary. I met him one visit up there in the company of John while on some business. There are some messed up people in this world.

Home After a Year and a Half – And Very Late, Part I.

This post is about two months or so late. Any perusal of my blog would inform a person that I am not a proficient blogger. Yet, I am resolved to some improvement.

On January 14, I returned home to the US and was picked up by 2nd brother, Jason. It was glorious being home after a year and ½. Jason was and is going through some tough times, so I was happy to hang out with him. He was building a mobile tent platform on the top of a trailer. This was extensively for camping and traveling with his new Jeep. He has now fallen into that bottomless pit of Jeep owners, started by my cousin Jacob. I didn’t not have the heart to tell him that I hate camping. To me, it seems mainly consists of being hungry, cold and wet. These feelings are part of the reason I live in a city with 14 million people. However, I was happy to help him because I love him and that is what he is interested in. To be honest, though, neither one of us are competent carpenters. Ok, neither competent nor carpenters, which is why this project required repeated trips to Home Depot.

I also talked him into a trip to Baldwin Co., Alabama. I think we both had a good trip as we skirted around the east bank of the Tensas River, looking for the old homestead of our ancestor Michael Milton. We also went to Bay Minette where I picked up several documents that I had previously lost track of a couple of years before. One of these was a copy of a bill of sale from 1801. I was allowed to hold it in my hands, which was awesome but a little nerve-wracking. I had some copies made for our uncle, George Milton, as he had never seen these before. Uncle George has been the principle genealogist of the Milton family for over 50 years. I merely stand on the shoulders of a giant.

On Sunday the 18th, I drove Morgan’s car (Jason let me borrow it as she is away at school in Hawaii) to Doug’s house. It felt good to drive. I hung out with Doug (my 3rd brother) for a couple of days. We went to the genealogy section at the Jefferson Parish Library. I found a book there that lists a marriage document for Michael Milton at the Mobile Archdiocese Archives. I eventually paid $10 each for this and a baptism certificate for William and Adelaide Milton. We did have plans to drive out to S. Carolina to visit Jacob, but it did not come to pass due to a sickness and poor logistics on my part. Still, I was very happy to see Dougie. He told me he is planning to have a surgery sometime in the future, something that I much more hesitant about any surgery after the death of our Aunt Carol.

I then drove home to see Dad and John and other family members. On Friday the 23rd, I went up to Woodville, MS. I was researching my 5th great-grandparents, Barnabas and Margaret Hux Partin. I found quite a bit up there, including the marriage document of my 3rd great-grandparents, John and Emily Partin Moore. The courthouse was quite nice and I enjoyed the area, as it was my first time there.

About 4 or 5 days into the trip, I had to switch from the guest bedroom (my old room) to John’s travel trailer. The bed that Dad & Darlene (my stepmother) have in the guestroom killed my back, causing me to walk like an old man in need of a cane. Living in the trailer was frankly great, as I have come to greatly appreciate my privacy. Also, it allowed me to experience life in a small place. For the last couple of months, I had been watching Tiny House Nation on TV. I think that this movement to smaller space is something I would like to try out and the trailer gave me an opportunity.